Suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge

Suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge

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By Malcolm Gladwell

May/June 2019

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was built in 1937 and almost immediately became a magnet for suicides. Between then and now, 1,500 suicides have taken place there: more than at any other specific location in the world in that period. There are so many suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge that a couple of years ago, a documentary filmmaker set up a camera at both ends of the bridge, and just left it running, because he was certain he’d be able to capture people jumping off the bridge—that’s how frequently it happens. And of course, he did, as unbelievably ghoulish as that sounds.

So are suicides coupled to the Golden Gate Bridge, or if we somehow suicide-proof it, would people who were suicidal simply move to another bridge? Well, the assumption of the Golden Gate Bridge Authority is that there’s displacement, rather than coupling, meaning people would just find another way to die by suicide. That’s always been their assumption: “Why would we put a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge? People would just go to the Bay Bridge or any one of a million tall buildings in San Francisco and jump off those. It’s a pointless exercise.”

Mind you, they’ll spend millions of dollars building a barrier to protect cyclists on the bridge, even though a cyclist has never died on the Golden Gate Bridge. They’ll spend millions of dollars building a median down the middle to separate the two lanes of traffic. They’ll even build an eight-foot cyclone fence on the southern…

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